Dark horses Russia stunned

Russia may have provided the brightest of openings to Euro 2012 as thrashing the Czech Republic, but a single goal against the run of play has seen Dick Advocaat’s reign end in abject failure.

The first half was played out in the strangest of circumstances with Greece almost accepting their fate as wooden spoon recipients in Group A. Although Russia dominated possession a neutral eye would see that both sides seemed to be happy with the draw.

Russia seemed so assured of their place in the knockout stages that the game was played at a sluggish pace throughout the first half. Even a first half injury time goal for the Greeks failed to spark any resistance from Dick Advocaat’s side and the nation that promised so much ultimately fell at the first hurdle of Euro 2012.

In the second minute of first half injury time all this was to change however as an innocuous throw in from the right saw Giorgios Karagounis burst into space and fire his low drive past Malafeev in the Russia goal. A dull game had unexpectedly come to life and in the space of one kick, Greece were looking at a place in the quarter finals while highly fancied Russia were suddenly facing the prospect of the next Aeroflot flight back home.

As the second half began, the goalless scoreline between Poland and the Czech Republic would have been enough to send both of these teams through to the quarter finals. Advocaat signalled his intent to attack however by sending on Roman Pavlyuchenko to replace the ineffective Kerzhakov but for once, the supply from Dzagoev and Arshavin was found wanting.

The Czech Republic had taken the lead over Poland but if the news had filtered through to the Russian ranks it certainly didn’t result in any real urgency. In fact, Greece were closer to adding to the scoring with what seemed like a clear penalty claim before the whistle blew after a tame final few minutes.

Ultimately, Russia had around three quarters of the possession in this match but a lack of penetration up front was to cost them dearly and provide the first major shock of Euro 2012.